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Archives: Records from Trump White House staffers remain missing
Author: Farnoush Amiri, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The National Archives and Records Administration informed lawmakers that a number of electronic communications from Trump White House staffers remain missing, nearly two years since the administration was required to turn them over.

The nation’s record-keeping agency, in a letter Friday to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said that despite an ongoing effort by staff, electronic communications between certain unidentified White House officials were still not in their custody.

“While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should,” Debra Steidel Wall, the acting U.S. archivist, wrote in a letter to Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

The letter went on to specify that the National Archives would consult with the Justice Department about how to move forward and recover “the records unlawfully removed.”

It has been widely reported that officials in President Donald Trump’s White House used non-official electronic messaging accounts throughout his four years in office. The Presidential Records Act, which says that such records are government property and must be preserved, requires staff to copy or forward those messages into their official electronic messaging accounts.

The agency says that while it has been able to obtain these records from some former officials, a number remain outstanding. The Justice Department has already pursued records from one former Trump official, Peter Navarro, whom prosecutors accused of using at least one “non-official” email account — a ProtonMail account — to send and receive emails while he worked as the president’s trade adviser.

The legal action in August came just weeks after Navarro was indicted on criminal charges after refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The House committee has jurisdiction over the Presidential Records Act, a 1978 law that requires the preservation of White House documents as property of the U.S. government. The request is the latest development in a monthslong back-and-forth between the agency and the committee, which has been investigating Trump’s handling of records.

The letter on Friday also comes nearly two months after the FBI recovered more than 100 documents with classified markings and more than 10,000 other government documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Lawyers for Trump had provided a sworn certification that all government records had been returned.

Maloney and other Democratic lawmakers on the panel have been seeking a briefing from the National Archives but haven’t received one due to the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into the matter.

Tesla robot walks, waves, but doesn’t show off complex tasks
Author: Tom Krisher and Matt O'Brien, Associated Press

DETROIT — An early prototype of Tesla Inc.’s proposed Optimus humanoid robot slowly and awkwardly walked onto a stage, turned, and waved to a cheering crowd at the company’s artificial intelligence event Friday.

But the basic tasks by the robot with exposed wires and electronics — as well as a later, next-generation version that had to be carried onstage by three men — was a long way from CEO Elon Musk’s vision of a human-like robot that can change the world.

Musk told the crowd, many of whom might be hired by Tesla, that the robot can do much more than the audience saw Friday. He said it is also delicate and “we just didn’t want it to fall on its face.”

Musk suggested that the problem with flashy robot demonstrations is that the robots are “missing a brain” and don’t have the intelligence to navigate themselves, but he gave little evidence Friday that Optimus was any more intelligent than robots developed by other companies and researchers.

The demo didn’t impress AI researcher Filip Piekniewski, who tweeted it was “next level cringeworthy” and a “complete and utter scam.” He said it would be “good to test falling, as this thing will be falling a lot.”

“None of this is cutting edge,” tweeted robotics expert Cynthia Yeung. “Hire some PhDs and go to some robotics conferences.”

Amid policy scrutiny, Mormon leader calls abuse ‘abomination’
Author: Sam Metz, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Russell M. Nelson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told members of the faith on Saturday that abuse was “a grievous sin” that shouldn’t be tolerated and would bring down the wrath of God on perpetrators.

Though the leader of the nearly 17 million-member faith did not mention it directly, the remarks were the first on abuse from a senior church leader since The Associated Press published an investigation into how the church handles reports of sexual abuse when brought to its attention.

“Let me be perfectly clear: Any kind of abuse of women, children or anyone is an abomination to the Lord,” Nelson, who members of the faith believe is a prophet, said in Salt Lake City during a church conference.

The AP’s investigation found the hotline the church uses for abuse reporting can be misused by its leaders to divert accusations away from law enforcement and toward church attorneys. The story, based on sealed records and court cases filed in Arizona and West Virginia, uncovered a host of concerns, including how church officials have cited exemptions to mandatory reporting laws, known as clergy-penitent privilege, as a reason to not report abuse.

Since its publication, the church has said the investigation mischaracterizes its policies, while underlining how its teachings condemn abuse in the strongest terms. Influential church members have historically fought legislative efforts to close the loophole exempting clergy from mandatory reporting requirement. The church has not said whether it will fight reforms that lawmakers plan to propose next year.

The church has historically used its twice-yearly conference to set a tone for its members, reflect on current events and announce changes in doctrine. Nelson’s remarks on Saturday echoed the statements the church has released since the publication of the AP’s investigation — condemning abuse, while also defending the church’s policies.

“For decades now, the Church has taken extensive measures to protect — in particular — children from abuse,” Nelson, the church’s 98-year-old president, said sitting on a stool behind a conference center lectern, imploring listeners to research church policy themselves.

Nelson described abuse as an influence of “the adversary,” employing a term the church frequently uses to describe forces that oppose the gospel and its teachings.

Amid the church’s insistence that reporting mischaracterizes its sexual abuse hotline, Nelson also said “the adversary” worked “to blur the line between what is true and what is not true.”

Anti-racism was also a focal point of the opening day of the conference, which is broadcast to church members around the world.

Todd D. Christofferson, a high-ranking church official and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, acknowledged that for much of the church’s history, it has been dominated by white North Americans, yet he noted that its membership had steadily diversified.

It has been “long prophesied,” Christofferson said, that the church would have “members from every nation, kindred, tongue.”

“We cannot permit any racism, tribal prejudice, or other divisions to exist in the latter-day Church of Christ. … As our church population grows ever more diverse, our welcome must grow ever more spontaneous and warm,” he said.

The church has long reckoned with a history of treating people unequally based on their race. It did not grant Black members full access to the church rituals or priesthood rights until 1978 — 14 years after the Civil Rights Act.

Christofferson’s remarks came after, for the first time in church history, a Black woman spoke at the conference. Tracy Y. Browning, who was appointed to an all-women leadership panel focused on families and children earlier this year, devoted her remarks mostly to spiritual matters, imploring listeners to expand Jesus Christ’s role in their lives.

The church has in recent years expanded its partnerships with U.S.-based groups like the NAACP and focused on growing its ranks on the African continent, where it has five temples open and 17 planned or under construction.

Ronald A. Rasband, another high-ranking church official, spoke of “flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon” and recounted meeting and gifting the book to leaders in Lesotho and Mozambique.

Suspect in migrant’s shooting death ran detention center accused of abuse
Author: Acacia Coronado, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — One of two Texas brothers who authorities say opened fire on a group of migrants getting water near the U.S.-Mexico border, killing one and injuring another, was warden at a detention facility with a history of abuse allegations.

The shooting happened Tuesday in rural Hudspeth County about 90 miles from El Paso, according to court documents filed Thursday. One man was killed; a woman was taken to a hospital in El Paso where she was recovering from a gunshot wound in her stomach, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

DPS said the victims were among a group of migrants standing alongside the road drinking water out of a reservoir when a truck with two men inside pulled over. According to court documents, the group had taken cover as the truck first passed to avoid being detected, but the truck then backed up. The driver then exited the vehicle and fired two shots at the group.

Witnesses from the group told federal agents that just before hearing the gunshots, they heard one of the two men in the vehicle yell derogatory terms to them and rev the engine, according to court documents.

Authorities located the truck by checking cameras and finding a vehicle matching the description given by the migrants, according to court records.

Michael Sheppard and Mark Sheppard, both 60, were charged with manslaughter, according to court documents. Court records did not list attorneys for either man. Contact information for them or for their representatives could not be found, and attempts to reach them for comment since their arrest have been unsuccessful.

Records show that Michael Sheppard was warden at the West Texas Detention Facility, a privately owned center that has housed migrant detainees. A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Associated Press that no ICE detainees had been held at that detention facility since October 2019, following the opening of a larger detention facility nearby.

Scott Sutterfield, a spokesman for facility operator Lasalle Corrections, responded to an AP email asking whether Sheppard had been fired as warden. Sutterfield said the warden had been fired “due to an off-duty incident unrelated to his employment.” Sutterfield declined further comment, citing the “ongoing criminal investigation.”

A 2018 report by The University of Texas and Texas A&M immigration law clinics and immigration advocacy group RAICES cited multiple allegations of physical and verbal abuse against African migrants at the facility. According to the report, the warden “was involved in three of the detainees’ reports of verbal threats, as well as in incidents of physical assault.” The warden cited in the report was not named.

However, Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, said in a press conference Saturday that Sheppard was in fact the warden at the facility at the time of the allegations and when the report was published. According to information provided by Doggett’s office, the webpage for Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections listed Sheppard as an employee at West Texas since 2015.

Doggett, along with other Texas Democratic congressmen, called on Saturday for a federal investigation into the shooting.

“The dehumanizing, the demeaning of people who seek refuge in this country, many of whom are people of color, is what contributed to the violence we see here,” Doggett said.

In one account detailed in the report, a migrant told the lawyers that the warden hit him in the face while at the nurse’s station, and when he turned to the medical officers, he was told they “didn’t see anything.”

“I was then placed in solitary confinement, where I was forced to lie face down on the floor with my hands handcuffed behind my back while I was kicked repeatedly in the ribs by the Warden,” a migrant referred to as Dalmar said in the report.

The attorneys submitted a civil rights complaint over the allegations that year, but according to a response letter sent to the lawyers in 2021, the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties conducted an onsite investigation and made multiple recommendations to ICE, but did not find evidence of “any excessive use of force incidents” or “incidents of wrongful segregation” and found some uses of force to have been appropriate.

Fatma Marouf, a co-author of the report and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Texas A&M, said it was difficult for authorities to follow up on the allegations because many of the people interviewed for the report were deported shortly after.

Marouf said current views on immigration enforcement based in deterring people at all costs have “spiraled out of control.”

“We don’t even see people as humans anymore,” Marouf said.

The number of Venezuelans taken into custody at the U.S.- Mexico soared in August, while fewer migrants from Mexico and some Central American countries were stopped, officials said in September. Overall, U.S. authorities stopped migrants 203,598 times in August, up 1.8 percent from 199,976 times in July but down 4.7 percent from 213,593 times in August 2021.

Silky Shah, executive director of advocacy organization Detention Watch Network, said this is a problem of both the current rhetoric around immigration, including the use of terms like “invasion” by GOP leaders including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and inaction from federal officials to move away from the previous administration’s immigration policies that added to this sentiment.

“I think there is no question that there is a discourse that is stoking actions like this,” Shah said.

PeaceHealth St. John’s emergency department faces high volumes in Longview
Author: Katie Fairbanks, The Daily News (Longview)

Amid “extremely high volumes” at its emergency department, PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center is asking patients to seek care in the “most appropriate setting.”

While the emergency department is always available for life-threatening or emergent medical issues, patients needing care for minor issues are strongly recommended to contact their doctor or go to an urgent care clinic, PeaceHealth wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post.

The hospital is not experiencing a new unusual uptick in volumes, which have been high for some time, said Michelle Gisby, PeaceHealth spokeswoman. The organization intended to remind patients to use the emergency department appropriately to help lower volumes and wait times, she said.

“We will never turn away a patient from our emergency department. It is always open to serve the community,” she said. “However, we want to make sure that patients who need the level of care that only an emergency department can provide are able to get in quickly.”

Average wait time depends on the patient’s condition, and those with life-threatening or emergency conditions will be seen first, Gisby said. Patients with less serious needs will wait longer.

There is no one reason for the high volumes, Gisby said. The hospital is seeing a mix of patients with serious illness and injuries, as well as those who need care but could be served more quickly elsewhere, she said.

At this time, the high volumes don’t seem to be directly linked to COVID-19 or the flu, Gisby said. PeaceHealth St. John had nine COVID patients Friday, with one in the ICU.

St. John’s inpatient census has also remained high, with 111 patients as of Friday morning. That number would historically average around 85 to 90, according to PeaceHealth.

Statewide, hospital occupancy has remained about 90 percent or higher for more than a year, according to Department of Health data. From January to mid-August 2021, hospital occupancy ranged from the low to mid-80s.

As of mid-September, 44,066 of 48,232 staffed beds — or 91.4 percent — were filled. About 7 percent of those beds were taken up by 3,292 COVID-19 patients, down from 12 percent in mid-July.

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations may be increasing, with 5.6 per 100,000 recorded from Sept. 13 to Sept. 19, up from 4.9 earlier in the month.

Cowlitz County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have remained above the state average, with nine per 100,000 recorded from Sept. 13 to Sept. 19.

Urgent care clinic information

PeaceHealth’s Lakefront Clinic: 1718 E. Kessler Blvd., Longview. Open for urgent care from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, according to its website.

Kaiser Permanente: 1230 Seventh Ave., Longview. Open for urgent care from noon to 9 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Pacific Urgent Care: 900 Ocean Beach Highway, Longview. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

Chachere runs, passes Portland State past Northern Arizona, 35-28
Author: The Associated Press

HILLSBORO, Ore. — Dante Chachere had 402 yards from scrimmage and accounted for all five Portland State touchdowns in the Vikings’ 35-28 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.

Chachere was 22-of-28 passing for 274 yards and he had 128 rushing yards on 12 carries.

Chachere threw three touchdown passes, including a 66-yarder to Mataio Talalemotu, and his two touchdowns runs included a 72-yard scamper. The TD to Talalemotu early in the fourth quarter gave the Vikings a 35-13 lead that would prove to be just one touchdown too many for the Lumberjacks to overcome.

The Lumberjacks rallied on a 1-yard run by RJ Martinez and a 10-yard pass from Martinez to Stacy Chukwumezie. Like Chachere, Martinez accounted for all of his team’s touchdowns, including a 53-yard pass to Chukwumezie early in the fourth quarter.

Chukwumezie’s second touchdown catch, with 4:12 remaining, would be the last the NAU offense would see of the ball. After Portland State recovered an onside kick, the Vikings ran off a total of 11 plays and reached the NAU 1-yard line before Chachere twice took a knee to end the game.

Woman sexually assaulted by cop seeks $1M from Spokane
Author: Associated Press

SPOKANE — A woman who was sexually assaulted by a Spokane police officer has filed a tort claim against the city of Spokane.

The woman is seeking $1 million in damages from the city, alleging “red flags” related to now ex-police officer Nathan Nash’s behavior were ignored, KREM-TV reported.

Nash was convicted in August on one count of third-degree rape and one count of second-degree rape in two separate incidents in which he was on duty.

The woman intending to sue says in the claim that the city’s hiring, training and supervision of Nash were inadequate and a proximate cause of her injuries. The city allowed Nash to use his power to prey on women he encountered during the performance of his duties, according to the claim.

The city has about two months to respond.

Nash is in custody at the Spokane County Detention Center awaiting a mid-October sentencing.

Skykomish area’s Bolt Creek Fire ruled ‘human-caused’
Author: Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times

Authorities lifted evacuation guidance near the Bolt Creek Fire on Saturday and said the blaze was human-caused. The fire continues to burn and is likely to cause hazy skies over Seattle throughout the weekend.

The Bolt Creek Fire started Sept. 10 just north of Skykomish. It is now a little more than 12,000 acres and 28 percent contained, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

A team working with an investigator to find the cause of the fire “determined through evidence they acquired it was human-caused,” said Amanda Monthei, a spokesperson for the fire-management team. It will likely take “a couple of weeks, if not months” for investigators to make an official determination of the cause.

“We had suspicion it was human-caused earlier on because we didn’t have lightning in the area when the fire started,” Monthei said.

As of 8 a.m. Saturday, all evacuation guidance for the areas around the fire was lifted.

“Residents in the area should remain vigilant,” said the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management. “Conditions could change quickly, and evacuations may again become necessary.”

Seattle is likely to see hazy skies through the weekend as easterly winds push smoke from the fire toward the city.

But air quality should remain good or moderate throughout most of the region, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

Closer to Highway 2, air quality could reach unhealthy levels for sensitive groups, the agency said. People who may be sensitive to the smoke include those with heart and lung disease, older people and children.

Wind patterns will continue “throughout the weekend and early next week, so we’ll probably see similar conditions for the next few days,” said Mary Butwin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

Oregon fines electric charging company $2.7 million
Author: Associated Press

PORTLAND — Oregon environmental regulators have issued a $2.7 million fine to an electric charging company over accusations it sold fraudulent credits through the agency’s clean fuels program.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said Friday that it discovered Thompson Technical Services, or TTS Charging, sold over $2 million in fraudulent credits, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

The program, implemented in 2016, is designed to help the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 37 percent by 2035. It provides credits as incentives to companies that produce transportation fuels like electricity or biofuels. Those companies can then sell credits to other companies in order for them to comply with state emissions rules.

According to the Department of Environmental Quality, TTS Charging falsely claimed more than 16,000 in credits in June, alleging it dispensed nearly 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity from three vehicle-charging stations.

“They hadn’t dispensed any electricity. They hadn’t even set up the charging stations,” agency spokesman Harry Esteve said.

The company then sold the credits for nearly $1.8 million to oil and natural gas transportation company Elbow River Marketing, based in Canada.

The state agency has revoked TTS Charging’s account with the clean fuels program.

The Chronicle - Centralia

Bolt Creek Fire Was 'Human-Caused'

Authorities lifted evacuation guidance near the Bolt Creek fire Saturday and said the blaze was human-caused. The fire continues to burn and is likely to cause hazy skies over Seattle throughout the weekend.

The Bolt Creek fire started Sept. 10 just north of Skykomish. The fire is now a little more than 12,000 acres and 28% contained, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

A team working with an investigator to find the cause of the fire "determined through evidence they acquired it was human-caused," but has not released any more information, said Amanda Monthei, a spokesperson for the fire management team. It will likely take "a couple of weeks, if not months" for investigators to make an official determination of the cause.

"We had suspicion it was human-caused earlier on because we didn't have lightning in the area when the fire started," Monthei said.

As of 8 a.m. Saturday, all evacuation guidance for the areas around the fire was lifted.

"Residents in the area should remain vigilant," said the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management. "Conditions could change quickly, and evacuations may again become necessary."

Seattle is likely to see hazy skies through the weekend as easterly winds push smoke from the fire toward the city.

But air quality should remain good or moderate throughout most of the region, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

Closer to Highway 2, air quality could reach unhealthy levels for sensitive groups, the agency said. People who may be sensitive to the smoke include those with heart and lung disease, older people and children.

Wind patterns will continue "throughout the weekend and early next week, so we'll probably see similar conditions for the next few days," said Mary Butwin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. Air quality is typically worse overnight as winds calm, then improves throughout the day, Butwin said.

Highway 2 reopened this week with a reduced 35 mph speed limit. The Washington State Patrol says it will "strictly" enforce that limit as crews continue to work in the area.

Beckler Road remains closed. Roads, trails and campgrounds in the area are still closed and a burn ban is in effect until "significant rain" falls, according to DNR.

The department says crews are working to contain the fire and make sure it stays north of Highway 2. However, little rain is expected and a "season ending event is not likely until later in the month of October."

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